The “Small Business” run by Chinese international students

Purchasing Agent & Ghostwriter (Image: Menglong Zhang)

Nowadays studying abroad is a top popular topic globally and also in China. With the rapid development of the economy and the growing demand for high education, more and more Chinese parents choose to send their children abroad for the better academic environment and different cultures, and Australia is a very popular choice for them because of its good education reputation and beautiful natural landscape.

It is recorded that there are 457,243 international students in Australia till Feb 2017 and 30% of them come from China.(Federal Government Data) So Chinese international students contribute to a large group in Australia, and some of them would use spare time to run their own “small business” to earn some money. And most of them would choose two kinds of business which are always regarded as illegal and unethical, the ghostwriter, and purchasing agent.

Everyone is Purchasing Agent

The business of purchasing agent is so popular within the Chinese international students in Australia, there is even a saying in the group: It’s a wasting if you don’t do purchasing agent when you study in Australia.

Purchasing agent is someone who buys some local-based products for their customers who are mostly in the other countries and earn commission which is always 10%-15% price of the products. The basic method of purchasing agent has two parts, the customer service, and purchasing. Basically, you can easily find the purchasing agents from the popular social media, as for Chinese people, the WeChat is the most common platforms. The agents will deliver their advertisements in WeChat within their social networks and the customers in China can easily find them. Then the both sides would communicate in personal about the products. Although the agents are mainly students and have many coursework to do, they still have to pay much time on customer service. I find ten agents and did a survey about their time distribution to purchasing business. And eight of them just do the business to their friends or relatives, they hardly purchase anything for strangers. The other two agents are more professional, although they are also students, they have their own virtual shops on WeChat. And most of the ten agents will only spend 3-5 hours on purchasing products weekly, but some professional agents will spend even more than 25 hours.

Eunice, A normal purchasing agent. Most agents would choose their profile picture with some symbolic sights on the background. (Photo: Weibo)

An interview with Eunice

The popularity of Australian purchasing agent has two main reasons. Firstly many Chinese people don’t trust Chinese products, especially the food and medical care products (which are also the most popular products in Australian purchasing agents business) because of the safety issue, and they would rather trust the quality inspection system in Australia. The most typical example is milk powder. The milk powder industry in China suffered a terribly negative impact on 2008 which have influenced thousands of infants. So the Australian milk powder has become a guarantee of safety. The second reason that makes Australian purchasing agents so popular is the specialty. As a developed agricultural and animal husbandry country with a long history and professional producing system, Australia is famous for its agricultural products and animal products and some other side-products. The Ugg boots is another popular products in the purchasing agents business because of its high-quality wool.

The Ghostwriter, a Wrong Use of Social Media

The ghostwriter service is an unethical business within the Chinese international student’s group. The business is also based on WeChat but different from the purchasing agents, you can easily find some ghostwriters through WeChat even you never know him before. The ghostwriter uses a locative based service named People Nearby to do business. Firstly the customers, most are college students turn on the People Nearby service and they can see everyone around who is also using the service. And the ghostwriter just uploads some brief introduction of their essay writing service on their profile. Then after adding friends, the both sides can talk about the detailed information.

Ghostwriters in People Nearby (Screenshot: Menglong Zhang)

In order to get more information, I have tried to add some ghostwriters and final figure out the basic running method of this unethical business. Actually, the ghostwriters you can find from People Nearby are just some agents. They are more like a connection between the real ghostwriter and the customer. They have a number of ghostwriters who are mostly students in colleges or even local people. The customer firstly gives the detailed assignment request to the agent which includes the major, the task requirement, the marking criteria, the word counts and the due date. Next, the agent will offer this demand to all of his ghostwriters, and if the ghostwriters are interested in this business, they will give a price depends on the due date, the word count and the degree of difficulty, so there is no standard price in the business. As for me, I said I need a 2,000 words media essay and dues in a week, the agent said there were two ghostwriters are willing to do the job, one is from the UTS and one is from UNSW who give the price at 650 AUD and 500 AUD respectively,  and the agent recommended the UNSW writer who is an Australia grow-up, familiar with the Australian marking system, quality guaranteed doctor. When talked about the pass and plagiarise issue, the agent said all of their work are 100% original and will be checked the repetition rate before submission for free. Although academic plagiarism is a serious problem, some Chinese international students still want to pass their assignments from the ghostwriter’s way.

Legal and Ethical Issue

As the two typical individual business that runs by Chinese international students in Australia, both purchasing agent and ghostwriter are highly controversial for many reasons. For instance, the popularity of purchasing milk formula has caused a shortage in Australia, some local parents even can’t get their necessary milk formula in the supermarkets and they criticised the purchasing agents so much. Also, it is hard to identify the two business break laws or not. As we know, there is no doubt that the ghostwriter service is unethical and offends the academic system, it still hard to say the ghostwriter has broken one of the laws. And for purchasing agents, because Australia and China have two different laws of taxation, it is also not clear to judge the products are breaking laws or not. And some of the agents just send qualified products which are under the standard. And sometimes the products can be considered as some gifts for their friends and families, so there is no clear proof that they are running the business on purpose or just doing it without awareness.

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